Dekho, dekho… paisa pheko… tamasha dekho

Deccan Chronicle - - Oped - Read­ers can send feed­back to www.shob­haade. Shob­haa’s Take

Bol­ly­wood in the 1980s was known for its melo­dra­mas. And we de­voured them hit by hit. There was noth­ing called sub­tle. It was out there. Bad guys, good guys, vamps and vil­lains. Mar­tyr­dom and sac­ri­fice. Mur­der and may­hem. The for­mula didn’t change. Only the cos­tumes did. The po­lit­i­cal drama in In­dia, as of now, needs bet­ter scriptwrit­ers. The nar­ra­tive is so damn tawdry, it is mak­ing avid po­lit­i­cal watch­ers a tad rest­less. Ma­mata Ban­er­jee aced the “su­per nau­tanki” game with her “changadanga” non­sense… thank God she didn’t add “nanga”. Next came our Prime Min­is­ter’s com­i­cal photo-op — wav­ing to non-ex­is­tent crowds, de­serted shikaras and wa­ter hy­acinths float­ing on an empty Dal Lake in Srinagar. Rahul Gandhi has upped his agro an­tenna with the crude “chor-chowki­dar” at­tack on Naren­dra Modi, adding “dar­pok” to his charges for good mea­sure. He has also won­dered aloud whether the PM suf­fers from “schizophre­nia” (hope Rahul Baba knows how to spell it!). What’s with our lead­ers? Lan­guage is­sues? Staged pho­tos that fool no­body? Hey Bhag­wan! What hap­pens with their min­ders and those over­paid spin doc­tors who are sup­posed to take care of de­tails and gaffes on this scale? If they are too scared of their bosses to ad­vise them dur­ing this, the most crit­i­cal pe­riod be­fore a na­tional elec­tion, they should be sacked. Spin doc­tors are sup­posed to be per­cep­tion ex­perts who know pre­cisely which but­tons to press and when. Last week’s fi­asco (CBI vs Kolkata cops), was so darned lu­di­crous, we would have laughed out loud had the im­pli­ca­tions been in­nocu­ous. But they are any­thing but. What we are wit­ness­ing is a near-an­ar­chic de­vel­op­ment which can only lead to chaos. How many cover-ups can a coun­try han­dle with­out cracks in the sys­tem threat­en­ing its very sta­bil­ity. If cops are col­lud­ing with the State, and if the Cen­tre is sus­pect­ing cops, what sort of se­cu­rity/safety can cit­i­zens de­pend on dur­ing a cri­sis?

Pre-elec­tion stunts are not new to In­dia. But some of the re­cent an­tics take the cake. And to think it is ne­tas like them who har­bour am­bi­tions of lead­ing the coun­try! As­ton­ish­ing! The low level of po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment and dis­course is a mat­ter of grave con­cern, given the limited choices in front of us. There is hardly any se­ri­ous con­tender on the scene for the top job — just a bunch of op­por­tunists and wannabes. For starters, which one of them can be called ed­u­cated? Take a look at some of the hope­fuls — from Mr Rahul Gandhi to Mayawati, we have politi­cians with fe­ro­cious ap­petites for seiz­ing power, but with no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion to help them ne­go­ti­ate this vast and tu­mul­tuous na­tion of ours. Ms Ban­er­jee’s CV shows mul­ti­ple de­grees, but when she speaks, her words make one won­der. Ed­u­ca­tion is not just about de­grees. It is not even about which school or col­lege one has at­tended. I know sev­eral duf­fers who proudly re­fer to their Ox­ford/Cam­bridge/Har­vard/Prince­ton days but are they truly ed­u­cated? Civilised? Open and re­cep­tive? In­ter­ested in mat­ters of the world? Aware and in­formed?

It is wor­ry­ing to think In­dia may soon be dom­i­nated by semi-lit­er­ate lead­ers and mem­bers of Par­lia­ment. It is a recipe for dis­as­ter. Our bu­reau­crats and tech­nocrats are amongst the sharpest on the planet. But what chance do they have to func­tion ef­fi­ciently in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment that does not recog­nise merit and only re­wards cham­chas? It is de­mor­al­is­ing to see just how ea­ger our babus are to please the es­tab­lish­ment and kow­tow to their po­lit­i­cal pa­trons. When asked, they shrug and say, “Our ca­reers and pro­mo­tions de­pend on how we ‘man­age’ our min­is­ters.’’ Per­haps it was al­ways this way. But it is far more in your face and bla­tant these days. The most pa­thetic elec­tion stunt in­volves get­ting back our fi­nan­cial fugi­tives with a great deal of bom­bast and show. While I agree ev­ery such de­faulter must be held ac­count­able, as it hap­pens across the world, what we are likely to wit­ness in the case of Vi­jay Mallya looks like a dra­mat­i­cally staged tamasha to im­press vot­ers and prove a point. It will be a spec­ta­cle all right. Just as it is meant to be. The King of Good Times will be brought back to face a trial in In­dia… one won­ders whether man­a­cles and chains will be used to make the home­com­ing still more dra­matic? The tim­ing couldn’t have been more cun­ningly cal­cu­lated. Though how ex­actly achche din will be served through this the­atri­cal stunt re­mains a mys­tery. Come on. If the present gov­ern­ment means busi­ness and is sin­cere about ad­dress­ing such is­sues swiftly, why not start by clean­ing its own sta­bles? There are enough be­nami bil­lion­aires in Par­lia­ment to make the rest of the busi­ness­men-crooks look like am­a­teurs. Will any­body dare to name and pros­e­cute some of the vet­eran politi­cians who have been amass­ing wealth for over five decades? Their names are known to all. The iden­tity of their front­men is also not a se­cret. But ev­ery­one’s lips are sealed, be­cause money talks. Es­pe­cially dur­ing an elec­tion year. Buy­ing and sell­ing of cru­cial seats will be the real game-changer even­tu­ally. In all this, who are we? No­bod­ies! We will sit dumbly on the side­lines and watch our fu­ture be­ing traded for a few pieces of gold. And yes, the un­e­d­u­cated will tell us what’s good for us. And we will go on pre­tend­ing we are still a democ­racy. An un­wieldy, un­govern­able democ­racy soon to be led by a bunch of semi-lit­er­ates. Wel­come to an un­let­tered fu­ture, folks! And yes, Mr Gandhi… go ahead and build the tem­ple, if you win. It will be the sin­gle most dis­hon­est act com­ing from you… but as in love, war and pol­i­tics, the win­ner takes it all! The only losers in Elections 2019 will be us id­iots — the cit­i­zens.

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